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Stephen Linaweaver has been kayaking from Oakland, Calif., to work in San Francisco for four years. (Courtesy of Dan Suyeyasu)

Forget The Car Keys — This Commute Requires A Paddle

Nov 13, 2013 (Morning Edition / KALW-FM)

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Stephen Linaweaver leaves work and heads to the water to make the paddle back across the bay. Stephen Linaweaver kayaks home across the San Francisco Bay.

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This story is part of a project on commuting in America.

We all know what it's like to be stuck in traffic. But what about paddling under it?

For kayak commuter Stephen Linaweaver, there is no rush hour or gnarly gridlock. His biggest commute worry is a really big ship.

Linaweaver kayaks from Oakland, Calif., to his job as a sustainability consultant in San Francisco. His hourlong commute begins at the Port of Oakland each morning at 7.

"So, I basically put all my work clothes in here, in this dry bag; and then I bring this flag, because you're actually really low in the water, and with waves and a blue boat, no one can see you," Linaweaver says.

There may be someone else who paddles a whitewater kayak from Oakland to San Francisco to get to work. But in four years of commuting this way, Linaweaver's never seen him. What he does see are some of the hundreds of cargo ships that pass through the bay each day. He usually knows where in his trip he's likely to encounter them, but still, he says, "it's kind of like a little bit of early morning human frogger."

Dodging the ships can be unnerving, but otherwise, his trip is calm, filled with the sounds of lapping water and far-off noises.

"You can hear the train whistle of the Amtrak, foghorn from Alcatraz, and there's a lot of cars on the Bay Bridge," he says.

His route may not be shorter than yours — but yours probably doesn't include harbor seals.

Copyright 2014 KALW-FM. To see more, visit http://www.kalw.org/.

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